Protecting Malta’s mazzita

An application has been filed with the EU to secure protective recognition for mazzit, the traditional Maltese blood sausage.

There’s a Maltese proverb that goes: fl-aħħar tal-mazzita ssib iż-żbiba. It literally translates to: at the end of the mazzita, you will find the raisin.

The mazzita (pl. mazzit) is a Maltese traditional sweet and savoury tasting meat product, made from swine or male bovine blood. This blood is added to a mixture of local onions, raisins, cocoa powder or liquid chocolate, and sugar, and encased in swine or bovine intestines. In addition to these staple ingredients, producers also add a small quantity of natural sweet flavourings and spices.

The mazzita is cylindrical in shape (sausage-like) weighing up to approximately 0.8kg, brownish in colour with a semi-translucent intestine casing.

The slices of finished mazzit (with raisins, onions, and zest) are visible with a brownish hue and when cold and cut it has a unique moist, solid yet crumbly texture. Prepared for eating, it is often sliced about 2.5cm thick and placed in flour and pan fried from both sides.

Sliced mazzit

The above description is derived from the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA)’s website, and it is there for a reason. Earlier on in February, the Authority issued the following statement, that was somehow lost in a newsworld dominated by local and european elections, inflation, and war:

It is hereby being notified that an application for the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) as defined by EU Regulation no. 1151 of 2012 on Quality Schemes for Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs was received by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA).

The applicant is Mazzit Stakeholders Group, from the Public Abattoir in Marsa’s Albert Town. As a government-operated slaughterhouse, they are filing this application with the EU to secure protective recognition for mazzit, thanks to the collaboration with butchers and the valuable information they contributed.

They are applying for PGI status in the Class 1.2. Meat products (cooked, salted, smoked, etc.).

What is a PGI?

The European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) is a designation that forms part of the EU’s system of geographical indications and traditional specialties. This system aims to protect and promote names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs. The PGI status is specifically granted to products that have a specific quality, reputation, or other characteristics that are essentially attributable to their geographical origin.

Unlike the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which requires all stages of production to take place in the defined geographical area, PGI requires that at least one of the stages of production, processing, or preparation takes place in the region.

Products bearing the PGI label are verified to have originated from the specific region and possess qualities, a reputation, or characteristics inherent to that location. By ensuring that only products genuinely originating from the specified region can use the protected name, the system prevents misuse or imitation, thus protecting the economic interests of the producers. By linking products to their region of origin, the PGI designation can enhance the market value and demand for these products, contributing to the economic vitality of rural areas.

Products that can receive the PGI status include agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine, and spirits. Examples of PGI products are Scotch beef from Scotland, feta cheese from Greece, and champagne from France (though champagne specifically has a PDO status). The process for obtaining PGI status involves a detailed application by the producers, which must prove the link between the product qualities and its geographical origin, followed by a verification process by the EU authorities.

When Michelin put us to shame

The Michelin Guide did not mince its words (pardon the pun) when it came to calling Malta out for its lack of PGI or PDO products. Here’s what it said in an article published last December:

“Until recently, the mazzit, or sweet Maltese blood sausage, made with pig’s blood, onions, raisins and other ingredients including chocolate, seemed destined to live on only in this well-known Maltese proverb.

However, the remarkable sweet yet savoury delicacy is experiencing a revival. And what a revival!

In the spirit of intrigue, here’s a quiz question: Which was, until not so long ago, the only European Union member state to have no food products or wines recognised with a protected designation of origin (PDO) or protected geographical indication (PGI)? You guessed it: Malta – even though the island has a number of eligible products.”

Michelin actually visited the abattoir in Marsa and spoke with butcher Stephen Cachia, who explained that to prepare for the submission of the recognition application, Mazzit Stakeholders Group consulted with the few remaining butchers who still produce it. Several of these butchers have been crafting it on a very small scale across various villages for four or five generations.

Though reluctant to share information at first, they are now exicted to pave the way for a rise in the mazzita’s popularity.

Photo: Michelin Guide

Why is Maltese mazzit so special?

Black pudding is not a new concept. Blood sausage is celebrated as a culinary delight across Europe. Consider, for example, the French boudin noir, English black pudding, German Blutwurst, and the Rhineland’s Flönz, along with Flemish beuling, Dutch bloedworst, Tuscan buristo, and Spanish butifarra negra, among others.

In addition to these savory varieties, there are also sweet-and-savory versions of blood sausage, like the Galician morcilla, which includes ingredients such as raisins, nuts, sugar, and pine nuts.

But the Maltese mazzita stands out for its unique blend of raisins, herbs, and spices, including cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel.

What’s next?

The MCCAA’s consultation period of two months, as stipulated in Regulation 7.3 of the Geographical Indications and Designations Regulations of 2004 (SL 427.52) is open until Tuesday, 9th April 2024 close of business.

If there are no comments, objections, or representations forwarded to the MCCAA, transitional national protection will be placed on the term(s), until the dossier is submitted to the European Commission and assessed by the European Commission and the Member States of the European Union.

Main photo: Michelin Guide

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